Let’s start with a bit of a history lesson: the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater titles were fantastic back in their day, with the first game in particular revolutionising the skateboarding genre in video games. Of course, subsequent entries saw countless improvements (with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 considered the pinnacle), but the high-scoring, trick-busting, combo-based action of the first release set gamer’s skateboarding fantasies alight. Unfortunately, things came crashing down as different console generations and gimmicks set in, with unnecessary peripherals and a disastrous fifth entry in the mainline series seemingly putting the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise out of its misery. It was a shame.
Now, twenty-one years on from the game’s original release, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 has sprung the series back to life by taking it back to its roots… literally. Activision have been prolific in remaking some of their most well-received and beloved classic franchises as of late, with Tony Hawk’s skateboarding escapade the latest to get the ‘lick of fresh paint’ treatment. It’s actually not the first attempt to remake the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater experience though, with a HD remake hitting in 2012 that managed to fall short of expectations. It did leave me a little worried about what to expect with their latest effort…
Well, despite the black marks against the series that had seen its most recent entries not only offer subpar experiences but also cause frustration amongst fans, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is true redemption. This isn’t just a return to form for the series, but an outstanding video game in its own right that’s combination of fluid and enjoyable gameplay mechanics have stood the test of time – this really is one of the most satisfyingly addictive extreme sport experiences that has EVER released on consoles.
For the uninitiated, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 offers a free-flowing skateboarding experience that challenges players to clear an assortment of goals within a two-minute time limit. These range from finding all of the collectibles that are scattered around, hitting as high a score as possible, hitting a set target in one combo, grinding specific obstacles in levels, smashing a set amount of crates are all over the place… it’s fairly straightforward with its offerings, but its tasks make for a lot of varied fun when you’re speeding around on a skateboard.
Where the game truly shines is within its level design, with a rich array of creatively designed environments to skate across that bring with them an abundance of score-chasing opportunities. A lot of these levels such as ‘Warehouse’, ‘School’, ‘Mall’ or ‘Venice Beach’ (ok, not the most creative of level names, but that doesn’t matter) might have been created twenty-years ago, but they’re still as brilliant as ever to unleash tricks upon today. Ramps and rails are seemingly lined up perfectly to allow for slick combos, whilst the amount of different areas to reach by pulling off extreme jumps will keep you scouring around your surroundings for secrets and scoring-opportunities for hours on end. There are fifteen levels to skate through in total and they’re all brilliantly designed.
Plus, who doesn’t like seeing old favourites with a fresh lick of paint? There’ll be a massive (and satisfying) sense of familiarity with each level’s design for fans, but the fact that they look so damn good makes it even more delightful to skate across them. Some of them have even taken a bit of a new direction in their look too, which adds an extra element of freshness to the experience. Besides the obvious enhancements that current gen consoles bring with their better textures and improved obstacles, the impressive lighting and reflective surfaces add a deeper sense of realism to each environment that makes them feel like living locales. It really is a beautiful game.
Of course, this wouldn’t mean anything if the skating itself wasn’t fun – fortunately, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 delivers there too, with the trick-hitting and combo mechanics all flowing perfectly in-game and feeling satisfyingly intuitive to pull off. Hitting perfect grinds or manuals to weave into combos feels incredibly satisfying (and still requires a good amount of balance to perfect), whilst the variety of tricks on offer means you won’t run out of ideas quickly within your two-minute time limit. Of course, there is a bit of finesse to be found in working out which tricks will score the most points and which ones work together nicely within combos, so there’s plenty of room for experimentation. However, if you’ve got these nailed down in your muscle memory (which I know I sure did despite the huge gap of time since playing the original), you’ll be fine – this might be a remake of the game, but it still FEELS the same to play… occasionally awkward physics mechanics, and all. The revert from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 has been added to the mix to add additional depth to your combos too, which makes the score-chasing feel even more free-flowing than before. It shows that there have been some changes made to the core fundamentals of the gameplay, but they improve the experience and still feel in line with what the series offered in its prime.
Another new and welcome addition are the Challenges, which give players a series of additional goals to work towards as they strive for completion. Much like the main objectives from each level, these will keep you hooked into the game for hours on end as you look to clear each level-specific goal. I mean, there are over seven-hundred to be completed in total, so you shouldn’t expect to be done with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 quickly regardless of how good at the game you might be. Completing these helps you earn an array of unlockables to be used across the different game modes or when customising characters too (kudos to Activision for not including any micro-transactions), so there’s a real incentive in place to try and clear them all.
Then there’s the multiplayer, which will keep players coming back for more and more across all of the different modes that it offers (and yes, that includes series favourites such as Horse and Graffiti). Best of all, there’s both local and online multiplayer on offer, meaning you can either find some opponents online or play like you would have in your younger years with a rival right next to you. Whilst I’ll admit that I don’t play local multiplayer half as much as I used to, there was something about its inclusion here that added to the authenticity of the experience. Either way you approach it, there’s nothing quite like beating an opponent by nailing some unbelievably high-scoring combos…
Fancy showing off your more creative side? Well, you’ll want to dive into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2’s ‘Create A Park’ mode, which allows you to use a multitude of options to create the skate park of your dreams. Besides the usual pieces and obstacles that you’re able to use to craft your perfect grind-fest of a park, there are some neat customisation options in place this time around to really finetune each aspect of your creation. It allows players to be more creative and silly in places, with the sky the limit (sometimes literally with how far you can make players launch themselves) with each one’s design. Oh, and you can share your creation and play other player’s created parks online too, meaning there are essentially ENDLESS possibilities as far as skating is concerned. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 really has it all, huh?
Well, that just so happens to include the original soundtrack, including the iconic ‘Superman’ by Gold Finger. Everyone who played the original game knows all of the lyrics to it by now, right? Add to that the classics by Rage Against the Machine, Lagwagon, Dead Kennedys, Millencolin, and The Vandals, and you’ll quickly find that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a 90s punk-rock fan’s dream. There are even some brand-new additions to the soundtrack spread across thirty-seven new artists this time around, so you’ll have a varied and banging selection of new and old tracks to listen to as you pull off each trick in your repertoire.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is simply perfect, with the satisfyingly brilliant skateboarding mechanics standing the test of time over twenty years on from its original release. Add to that some stunning new visuals, additional gameplay mechanics and challenges, a robust ‘Create a Park’ feature that allows endless possibilities, and, of course, a banging soundtrack, and you’ll quickly find you’re in skateboarding heaven with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2.
Bravo, Activision and Vicarious Visions… you’ve ABSOLUTELY nailed it.
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC